SASKATOON, Saskatchewan, April 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca) issued a warning on Tuesday to the Saskatchewan Health Authority after a church was prohibited from holding a drive-in church service during the coronavirus pandemic where attendees would listen on car stereos without exiting their vehicles.
The Nipawin Apostolic Church had planned a drive-in Easter service for Sunday morning in the same format as a drive-in movie, ensuring that social distancing would be observed. The church asked attendees to stay in their vehicles and listen to the service on their radios. Car windows were to remain closed, and lights could be flashed instead of saying “Amen.”
In planning the service, the church followed provincial guidelines and obtained approval from municipal officials. But while similar Easter services occurred without incident across Canada this past weekend, the Health Authority deemed the church’s drive-in Easter service a “mass gathering” in violation of Saskatchewan’s Public Health Order. The church was forced to cancel the planned drive-in church service or face the risk of steep fines.
The Justice Centre believes that the Health Authority’s decision was ostensibly based on a concern that attendees would leave their vehicles to engage in personal interactions without social distancing. The organization said that if the Health Authority consistently applied the same rationale throughout the province, it would lead to a ban on all public parking during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The COVID-19 outbreak does not suspend our freedoms as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” stated Jay Cameron, litigation manager for the Justice Centre.
“This restriction of public religious gatherings, in which people exclusively occupy their personal vehicles on a parking lot while worshipping, is irrational, unnecessary and a clear violation of Charter rights.”
In a letter to the Health Authority, the Justice Centre requested an immediate response confirming that the Health Authority has rescinded its decision to deem drive-in religious services a violation of the Public Health Order.